iTunes 9.1 – Smart Playlist Sort Order Still Wonky

In iTunes, I use a Smart Playlist to keep track of and to order my podcasts.

I like to order them by assigning to them a rating each morning before I head out on my daily travels. There are a few podcasts to which I assign 5 stars that take priority over everything – current news – then there are things in which I am very interested so they get 4 stars and then 3 and fewer stars are given to nice-to-hear shows.

I’ve lately taken to using the “Sort Artist” column to sub-sort the podcasts. By putting in the date (i.e. 20090924) it keeps them in order of receipt from oldest to newest. The end result is that I don’t end up listening to all my same-named podcasts clustered together but rather hear them interspersed among each other in the order in which they were published.

My expectation is that, on my iPod, the sort order will be the same as it is in iTunes. Not so anymore. Nowadays, the order somewhat follows the primary sort (I sort on “Rating” and everything else follows). On the iPod, rather than sorting from most to fewest stars, it currently sorts the opposite way and the sort within the stars follows absolutely no rhyme or reason – not alphabetically either by “Sort Artist” or by “Name”.

In fact, I took some time yesterday to experiment and it does not sort on ANY of the hidden sort fields or any visible fields for that matter.

I tried the suggestion of right-clicking on the playlist and clicking “Copy to Play Order” but this has absolutely no effect. I further tried editing the Smart Playlist and unchecking the “Live Updating” checkbox. This only resulted in NONE of my podcasts showing up in the iPod playlist, even though all looked fine in iTunes.

I understand that this is a major glitch in iTunes and have read many posts of folks complaining about this, so I suppose I’ll sit pretty while waiting for Apple to get around to fixing it. This post is mostly for folks who are experiencing the same issue to stumble across to see what I’ve tried and to know that their issue is shared.

Had to ditch WP-SpamFree

I was using WP-SpamFree to control comment SPAM.  But a few of my friends let me know that their comments were being refused as SPAM after they invested however long crafting a thoughtful message. Who knows how many others were being affected as I presume those folks who don’t even know me would just get ticked off and move on to some other part of the Internet.

I contacted the WP-SpamFree folks and all they would tell me was that the commenter’s machines had software on them that is usually associated with spammers. They declined to elaborate and wouldn’t respond at all when I suggested that a whitelist or some other override vehicle would probably be apt where you *know* the submitter and always want them to be able to comment.

I presume that, if my friends logged in, there would be no issue but it seems that a lot of folks don’t like doing that so I would be happy enough just putting in all their known addresses and then whitelisting those.

Anyway, I’ve had to switch to a different SPAM comment preventer solution so I hope the issue goes away without suddenly incurring a ton of comment SPAM.

BTW to be complete, here is the text of the error they received:

Your location has been identified as part of a reported spam network.
Comments have been disabled to prevent spam.

MagicJack + iTunes 9 + Vista Home Premium SP2 = Weird

*Updated September 23, 2009 *

After upgrading to iTunes 9.1 and rebooting, all is well. I’m pretty sure the real issue is the MagicJack. I’m seeing lots of weirdness from it. I’ll play with it for another week and then decide whether to go for Vonage instead. Had trouble verifying my phone in Google Voice. Sometimes I can’t pick up the phone (press 1 when presented with a call from Google voice) other times it picks up but one or the other end of the conversation can’t hear the other.

* End Update *

After performing a bunch of updates on my home machine beginning with the SP2 update for Vista home Premium, I went to play something on my freshly-updated-to-version-9 iTunes and… no sound.

So, while I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with that (all other sounds are playing just fine – media player, streaming videos) Michelle is trying to configure her Google Voice number to point to our new Magic Jack number. When she initiated the verification call to her phone, lo and behold, my iTunes music was playing.

Still trying to work *that* out…


Twilight“Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer is a very quick read. I found the book to be on a par with the movie in terms of complexity. It pretty much takes a straight path from beginning to end.

I’m a sucker for any story that involves immortality and has some kind of “reveal” plot (where someone with a positive secret such as immortality or some other attribute is either discovered or must show their hand). This book definitely has both but explores both facets through the angst-ridden vehicle of a 17 year-old girl.

I swear, if I was ever happy to be a guy, I came away from this book positively ecstatic not to have had to experience being a girl going through her teens. Certainly not that girl (Bella).  I went through my teenage years blissfully unaware of most of the issues that are dwelled upon and excruciatingly revisited throughout this book. Not to mention the emotional games that are played throughout. If this is an accurate representation of what life is like for a 21st century girl, it’s no wonder that illnesses such as anorexia nervosa and other valium-requiring mental conditions seem so rife these days. That anybody could be so completely absorbed by the minutiae expressed in this book stunned me.

Fortunately, the print was large and the spacing wide so this is a fast read. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve pretty much experienced the book but with the relief of not hearing the inner angst-monologue. If movies are made of the remainder of the Twilight series, I’ll likely end up watching them as my wife finds the romantic angle somewhat captivating. But I’ll be giving the books a pass.

The unspoken truth about managing geeks

There is so much that I agree with in this article “The unspoken truth about managing geeks” that I can’t stress how much reading it in its entirety would be beneficial for every single manager and above in my (or any) company.

The only two things that I would add are:

1) A manager of an IT team, in my view, also needs to be there to champion causes embraced by the team – often IT  workers have little clout in the business / political arena and a good manager nurtures relationships that allow them to gain support for IT driven initiatives. They also need to run interference and protect team members from dreary and pointless reports and statuses demanded by upper management or business units. Allowing IT folks to do what they do best.

2) The view of IT folks is somewhat romanticized and idealized. Just like any group of people, you’ll have many walks of life. The author falls victim – just a bit – to more favorable stereotypes. Even though they are an improvement, they must also be taken with a grain of salt. Not ALL IT folks are keen on finding the best, most efficient way to do something. Some folks’ BS detectors are much better than others, etc.  But I think anybody who has actively worked with IT folks knows this and can keep that little grain of salt handy while reading the article.

I can’t believe I’m going to patronize Comcast again :(

After being with AT&T for about 3 years, I find that their U-verse rollout is conflicting with my DSL connectivity. According to a guy I know at AT&T I’m far enough away from the nearest Central Office that they have a special profile for me (anybody my distance from the CO). I’m about 18,000 feet away and that’s apparently a pretty big deal.

As I understand it, this particular profile can cause interference with U-verse transmissions and so I’m being scaled back to some other profile. The long and short of it is that my AT&T DSL keeps dropping which I noted as a problem in my blog a couple of months ago. After verifying that all wires were properly attached to things they needed to be attached to, the tech changed my profile and made a few other soft adjustments and everything settled down and worked perfectly. However, he warned me that this could change at any time. It’s just that he knew that nobody was using U-Verse on my … what do you call it .. trunk? Node? Who knows?  So this wouldn’t adversely affect anybody.

This worked great for about a month but, as of yesterday, it seems that the profile has been reset again. This happened once before but then switched back on its own. My little DSL light (on my modem) has been flashing red fairly regularly whenever I want to surf the web.  I’m told my best option would be to downgrade my service to a 3 Mbps or possibly some kind of 1 Mbps connection in order to guarantee stability.

So, I checked out Satellite (why does Hughes NOT give you ANY technical details on their site?), Wi-Max (not in my area yet) and looked into various local providers but it appears that I really can only choose between my two duopoly-mates AT&T or Comcast.

Looking on Comcast’s site I saw a plan (“Performance” 15 Mbps down / 3 Mpbs up ) that would be $19.99 / month for the first 6 months and then $42.99 thereafter. Then I found that that deal only applied if you got cable too. So the price otherwise will be a straight $59.99 / month.

I found a deal that offered the same $19.99 *plus* a $125 Amazon gift card but then found that was only for 6 Mbps / maybe 1 Mbps.  To get to the “Performance” plan performance I’d end up paying $69.99 / month.  Man! Comcast definitely makes sure you will pay every last cent to them even if they offer you a deal, it seems you will repay the offer in spades.

So, I reluctantly went back to the original Comcast site and filled everything in again (I canceled the original order when I found out that the small print prevented me from getting any kind of deal) and found that this time it let me right through. So, for Internet service ONLY I now seem to qualify for $19.99 per month and $42.99 after 6 months.  I went so far as to confirm this with the Comcast rep that comes up in chat mode when you submit your order and all seems copacetic.

I get the new service installed on Tuesday (maybe) so we’ll see…

“unique fields names table size” error in Lotus Domino

I recently had an issue where the mail boxes on one of my Domino servers were not compacting at all during their normal window.

My logs showed

09/03/2009 04:00:01 AM  Router: Beginning mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:00:01 AM  Switching to copy-style compaction for E:\Lotus\Domino\Data\ due to unique fields names table size
09/03/2009 04:00:02 AM  Router: Shutdown is in progress
09/03/2009 04:01:49 AM  Router: Unable to compact mailbox file Database is currently in use by you or another user
09/03/2009 04:01:49 AM  Router: Completed mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:01:49 AM  Router: Beginning mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:02:02 AM  Router: Completed mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:02:02 AM  Router: Beginning mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:02:02 AM  Switching to copy-style compaction for E:\Lotus\Domino\Data\ due to unique fields names table size
09/03/2009 04:03:49 AM  Router: Unable to compact mailbox file Database is currently in use by you or another user
09/03/2009 04:03:49 AM  Router: Completed mailbox file compaction of
09/03/2009 04:03:50 AM  Router operation resumed.

Since I haven’t had the need to monitor for failure of mailbox compaction, I was not aware of this issue until I received complaints of Non Delivery Errors. Specifically “554 Error writing message to safe storage; message could not be stored to disk“.

I was unable to find anything useful either from Lotus’ technotes online, their forums or using Google in general so I thought I’d post something to help out others who travel this path.

I contacted Lotus and opened a PMR but they were clueless as well. I really wanted to know what the “unique fields names table size” error was all about but they really didn’t know and tossed me a technote pertaining to “Database has too many unique field names” which really didn’t apply. They also focused on database corruption caused by  anti-virus programs. I figure that, if this was the issue, this should  have come up in the past 5 years on some of the 30+ other servers I’m working with so I was pretty sure this was also not a cause.

Long and short, I still don’t have an effective means to generically monitor for mail box compact failure. I *could* set up a monitor for the “unique fields names table size” string but it seems that seems like overkill.

To resolve the issue is simple enough:

  • shut down the server,
  • rename all the mail boxes,
  • restart the server (allowing new mail boxes to be created),
  • copy over any not-dead messages to one of the newly created mail boxes and
  • delete the old mail boxes

A side-effect of the above is that my name becomes the “from” address for all the copied messages.  Anybody have a simple solution for that? I haven’t actually researched it yet since it comes up so infrequently but it would be handy to know.

Bicycling – Martin Goodman Trail / Silver Comet Trail

I really enjoy bicycling. Not epic 100+ mile cycles but more modest cycles. Lately on the order of around 30 miles or so.

Martin Goodman Commute to Work
Martin Goodman Commute to Work

I *used* to commute into work, back when I lived in Toronto. My house was located just four houses up from lake Ontario on Sixth street. I was able to cycle along Lakeshore Blvd for about 3 miles until I picked up the Martin Goodman Trail.  I was then able to follow the Lake Ontario shoreline until just South of where I worked downtown. A quick jaunt through city rush hour traffic and I was there. My company offered convenient  bicycle parking.  I would work out at the company gym and shower to get to work for about 8:30 every morning. It was about a 9 mile commute each way and it was glorious from about April through October.

Unfortunately, the prospect of commuting in and around Atlanta seems pretty laughable between the rather narrower roads and complete lack of awareness or care on the part of car drivers for anything smaller than another SUV on the road. So I cycle on weekends or early evening on very sparsely populated roads or – my favorite – Rails to Trails paths.

I’ve only explored a small part of the Silver Comet Trail (SCT) so far. I used to always begin at mile-marker zero (near Nickjack Elementary school) but have recently been making my way out to Hiram, GA to cycle the portion between there (mile marker 14.7) and the Historic Brushy Mountain Tunnel (mile marker 30.9). This trip *seems* to me to be just mildly uphill all the way out and mildly downhill all the way back with the tunnel representing some kind of watershed. It may just be my perception but I really do look forward to the return cycle.

There are multiple trailheads along the the SCT. The one at the zero mile marker is pretty good. It’s got a good bathroom facility and overflow parking at the elementary school if necessary. The downside is that it’s usually VERY busy and you’ll find yourself dodging pedestrians and other trail traffic for the first couple of miles of your trip.

I read an article that gushed about how attractive the segment of the SCT is between Hiram and Rockmart. I tried it several months back and I have to admit that it *is* a super attractive and pleasant ride. There is a great little cycling support place just off the Hiram trailhead (beyond the Sheriff’s caboose) that has washrooms big enough to just bring your bike in with you so you don’t need to worry about it. Also, it’s MUCH less crowded, even during peak times. Also, there are far fewer street crossings here than at the Zero mile marker trailhead. There are about 3 that you hit in fairly short order and then only the occasional slow-down-and-whiz-across one from then on.

Going beyond the Brushy Mountain Tunnel the trail starts to get much more hilly, especially for a rails-to-trails ride. I’ve been told that after Rockmart the trail really can be challenging (especially if you’re already bonking :)).

The Dreaming Void

The Dreaming Void“The Dreaming Void” by Peter F. Hamilton starts off a lot slower than his other works that I’ve read thus far. So slow that I was considering putting it down even after 50 or so pages. The pastoral environment that he was crafting, as it turned out for just one of his many subplots, was more reminiscent of the fantastical creations of Poul Anderson than the technologically futuristic offerings (Barsoomians notwithstanding) of Mr. Hamilton.

But after not much longer I was drawn back into his universe, set meny hundreds of years later than his last offering and including some characters (yes, they live that long) that were both interesting and, in some cases, rather under-explored. The Dreaming Void is setting itself up to be as rich and satisfying a story as any of Mr. Hamilton’s other works.

Just a warning, this is NOT a standalone book. In order to come to a satisfying conclusion you will need to read the entire series. I got into this book a *little* too soon and find myself eagerly anticipating the next book (I prefer softcover to hardcover – easier to read in bed).

WallyPark – Can’t really figure out their Points

I was reviewing my recent WallyPark receipt from my trip up to Toronto at the end August and could not at all figure out why I didn’t have enough points to cover this trip’s stay.

So I’ve sent them this email. I’m posting this in case anybody else uses them. Take a close look at your receipts. If you’re a member of their “WallyClub” (I know, I know – sounds like a Chevy Chase movie) you have access to every receipt that you’ve paid for their services. Check them out and see if you can make heads or tails of it.


My name is Marc Bourassa, I travel only occasionally and have been using your services since you acquired the Atlanta location from Airpark.

Recently, after a 5 day stay I was surprised that I had only 10 points available to me to apply against my balance. So they applied 7 points and I paid the rest.

In reviewing my receipts I can see that, for some reason I *always* seem to have 10 points available to me, no more ever seem to get applied to my balance regardless of my stays.

I’m also having trouble determining why my 3 day & 3 hr stay on 5/4/09 cost me $43.

Why I’m writing:

What I’d like is a review of my charges and point accruals / debits to date – this shouldn’t be that difficult as I have only a dozen transactions.

I’d also recommend that your site be updated to maintain a proper running balance of points. As it is it’s not very user friendly.

Overall I’m pretty satisfied with WallyPark’s services. The shuttles are always available when I’m headed to the airport and I have seldom had to wait for a shuttle when returning from the airport. But I also like to understand what I am going to pay and like to feel that I’m being treated fairly even with incentive plans. Please help me understand where I may be in error or work with me to correct any mistakes that may have been made.

Thanks for looking into this,